Customer Experience Strategy for Contact Centers

What Is A Customer Experience Strategy?

A customer experience strategy refers to the comprehensive plan that an entire company follows to create, manage, and optimize customer interactions. The primary aim is to achieve superior customer satisfaction and loyalty, fostering customer relationships that translate into business growth and success.

The Role of a Customer Journey Map

This strategy begins with understanding your customer journey. A customer journey map outlines each customer touchpoint, providing a detailed view of customer interactions. Using customer data and insights from these touchpoints helps identify pain points and areas that require improvement.

Company-Wide Responsibility

Customer experience management isn't solely the responsibility of customer-facing roles; it encompasses the entire organization. The leadership and customer support teams must collaborate to exceed customer expectations and reduce the customer effort score.

Importance of Customer Feedback

Collecting and processing customer feedback is a pivotal element of the CX strategy. Methods like focus groups, social listening, and analyzing online conversations provide valuable insights into customer behavior, needs, and expectations.

Achieving Business Goals with CX Strategy

The CX strategy boosts customer loyalty and satisfaction, improves customer lifetime value, and curbs customer churn rate. This strategic approach enables companies to offer a seamless experience across all customer touchpoints, gaining a significant competitive advantage.

Positive Customer Experience

The ultimate goal of a customer experience strategy is to deliver positive customer experiences that drive repeat business, boost customer loyalty, and improve overall business outcomes. An effectively implemented customer experience strategy is a crucial catalyst for business expansion and success.

Customer Experience: Encompassing the Entire Customer Journey

Customer experience encompasses the entire customer journey. Each individual interaction—from the first time a potential customer finds your product or service through an internet search to each time he or she uses it in the months and years that follow—is a part of the customer experience. All of those moments mold the customer’s opinion and perception of your brand, making the instances you have more direct control over all the more important.

When a customer reaches out for help or to get a question answered, your contact center agents are directly involved in creating the experience. Billions of interactions happen in contact centers every day, and tapping into the opportunities they offer for customer experience strategy begins with truly understanding the power your contact center agents hold.

Prioritizing customer experience in your contact center is how you create extraordinary, not cookie-cutter, experiences for customers. In fact, according to Forbes, 74% of consumers say they make purchase decisions on experience alone.

According to a study published in Harvard Business Review, consumers feel impactful customer experience falls into two categories: memorable and frictionless: “Our analysis revealed three notable findings. First, we found a positive correlation between both frictionless and memorable experiences and consumers’ sentiment and spending behavior. Second, we found that those relationships varied by industry. Neither of these findings are that surprising. The third finding, however, is: At a certain point, there are zero-sum gains when pursuing both frictionless and memorable experiences as a competitive strategy. Brands can only grow so much by pursuing a joint strategy of being both frictionless and memorable. To grow beyond that point, brands must choose to focus on one or the other–to be either increasingly frictionless or increasingly memorable.”

One important thing to note is that customer experience is not the same thing as customer service. While contact center agents do provide customer service, that is more the act of working through the problem and finding a solution. Customer service is a part—but not the sum total—of customer experience. Customer experience, on the other hand, is how that solution is found and how the customer feels while going through the process with your agents. This is where the juxtaposition between frictionless and memorable comes in: memorable experiences may take longer but often feel more personalized.  

Ultimately, you’ll need to decide what type of experience is most important for your customers. Do they need it to be as seamless as possible, or are they willing to sacrifice that in the name of a memorable one? Prioritizing one path makes coaching for agents easier and helps guide the choice of analytics to track and how to understand them. Whether you aim to prioritize a frictionless or a memorable atmosphere, your customer experience strategy should include a number of key elements: know who your customers are, map the vision, build emotional connection, collect real-time feedback and act on insights.

Key Elements of Customer Experience Strategy

  • Know who your customers are

Your company likely creates buyer personas as part of marketing or product development strategies, and these can be applied in your customer experience strategy. However, there are additional considerations for these personas in a contact center setting. Think about what these buyer personas will experience if they have to call customer service for help: Is this unexpected for them? Is it exceptionally frustrating to have to wait for the issue to be fixed?

Demographics can be useful here, too. While marketing may be using demographic identifiers in a different way, your customer experience strategy can consider the generational differences in patience around response time, adoption of technology and more. Will it be off-putting if their customer service agent isn’t local? Do they expect an immediate fix at the end of the call? All of these factors will help guide your understanding of each customer who reaches out to your contact center.

  • Map the vision

Customer journey mapping provides you with, quite literally, a road map to success in your customer experience strategy.

“The foundation of a successful CX strategy is customer journey mapping,” former Microsoft executive Steve Sirich said. “About 78% of leading marketers say that combining various sources of data to better understand the customer decision journey is a top priority. The most essential source of data is search, which can help marketers map their customers' decision journey, resulting in more touch points that lead to increased sales.” 

Building off your customer personas, historical feedback, and customer data will help shape your customer journey map. This process brings clarity into potential roadblocks and snags, allowing your team to create solutions in advance. Ideally, agents can and should be a part of the journey mapping process, as they can provide valuable insight into what customers are saying day-to-day and what common issues are.

  • Build emotional connection

Ultimately, your agents and the customers they interact with are individual people, just like you. They have backgrounds, experiences and daily stressors that affect their mood and response at any given moment. It’s important for agents and managers to stay human and understanding; ideally, all customers would too, though you likely can’t control that. As Kassi Cox Whale of Ident Solutions told Forbes, “Stay human and relatable. Listen, identify, and invest yourself in their success with your product. It may take slightly more time on the front end, but it can save contracts and reduce churn in the long run.”

As our recent article on improving customer satisfaction in contact centers noted “ Specific agent behaviors can have an outsized effect on whether a customer has a great interaction. The skills that can make or break a customer’s experience most frequently are soft skills, like how friendly an agent is and whether the agent actively listens to a customer, owns a customer’s issue and shows empathy.”

In fact, a Salesforce study shows just how important these behaviors can be: Customers ranked efficiency, ability to handle requests without transfers, empathy, and politeness among the top traits agents need.

Coach agents on ways to connect with customers and understand that reactions like anger and upset are rarely personal. In addition, ensure your managers are equipped with strategies for helping agents with work-life balance and provide ample opportunities for feedback. As part of developing your customer experience strategy, solicit input from your agents on what they need to successfully build that emotional connection with customers and talk through concerns.

  • Collect real-time feedback

The value of getting feedback in real-time is immense, but most contact center analytics aren’t robust enough to spot real-time changes and alert agents. In-the-moment insights allow agents and managers to adjust on the fly, better meeting what the customer needs. This insight is useful whether you’re focusing on a frictionless or memorable approach.

From our guide to improving customer satisfaction in contact centers: “One of the most sought-after indicators of customer satisfaction relates to the emotions that customers have during an interaction—their sentiment. Understanding sentiment typically requires measuring whether customers have a positive, negative or neutral experience in a contact center interaction. Gathering and analyzing that data provides evidence needed to make the change, identify the specific source of dissatisfaction, and understand the nature of specific issues.

“Pinpointing customer sentiment is notoriously difficult to do at scale, as it requires analysis of spoken words, speech characteristics like pitch and tone, and situations where agents and customers are ‘cross-talking’ or interrupting each other. That’s why many organizations are turning to artificial intelligence to detect sentiment and drive customer satisfaction.”

Having the right tech stack in place to collect and act on this feedback is a game-changer for many organizations. You ’ll want tools that can seamlessly collect and analyze the data, providing easy access for future use and insight as well.  An article in Forbes recommends that you & ldquo;use data insights to inform digital platforms as well as customer-facing employees. If employees are equipped with the latest and most insightful information regarding what a customer may require, that moment of truth will go a long way toward achieving customer loyalty.”

  • Act on insights and continuously improve 

With feedback on hand, contact centers can make an immediate adjustment to better serve customers. Collected insights also have value over the long term in guiding continuous improvement.

Reviews of calls and interactions compared against the metrics set for your customer experience strategy are valuable conversation starters for agent coaching sessions. They can also highlight areas you may have not considered initially. Your customers, product and brand will continually evolve, and so should your customer experience strategy alongside them.

With the right tools in place, you’ll be able to measure success in a number of ways. You can track things like call resolution times as well as Net Promotor Score (NPS) to get both a micro and a macro view. As mentioned above, the human element should be added in for additional context; your response to and solution for certain issues would likely be different during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic than during a post-pandemic busy season. The key is to collect and understand insights in a way that makes next steps clear and supports your team taking them no matter what adjustment is being made.

When applied efficiently, these insights can lead to better customer retention. After all, just a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25-95% increase in profits. Part of applying insights goes back to simply listening to a customer and his or her needs, an act that simultaneously builds emotional connection and stronger relationship with them over the long term. When customers feel heard, they feel cared for. When they feel cared for and have an extraordinary experience, they stick around.

How NICE Enlighten AI can help

NICE offers a suite of tools created to support your customer experience strategy. Enlighten AI makes your entire contact center smarter by enabling your agents to become truly customer centric. Our Customer Experience Analytics hub presents a wealth of resources for your customer experience strategy, including how to solve common issues and how to keep the human element at the forefront.

Every organization, regardless of size, can benefit from a pre-built strategy for an effective customer experience. Prioritizing the creation of your strategy in advance gives you the room to address challenges before they happen and empowers agents to build an authentic emotional connection with each customer they interact with. Start with diving deep into who your customers are, map their journey, build in space for emotional connection and collect real-time feedback using tools like Enlighten AI, and you’ll have the capability to improve and grow as a contact center continuously.